Federal regulators warn that products marketed as “teething jewelry” may pose serious risks for both children who are teething and those who use them for sensory stimulation, following multiple reports of choking, strangulation and death.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning late last week, urging parents to seek alternate means of relieving teething pain and providing sensory stimulation.
Several different types of necklaces, bracelets or anklets are marketed as “teething jewelry”, often including wood, amber, marble, or silicone beads designed to be worn by infants, as well as children and adults with special needs. The products sold by a number of different different manufacturers and individuals, and the teething jewelry warning does not impact any one single brand or type of product.
“We know that teething necklaces and jewelry products have become increasingly popular among parents and caregivers who want to provide relief for children’s teething pain and sensory stimulation for children with special needs,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release. “We’re concerned about the risks we’ve observed with these products and want parents to be aware that teething jewelry puts children, including those with special needs, at risk of serious injury and death.”
Teething jewelry is used in two ways. They are used as teething products, for young infants who are teething and experiencing teething pain to chew on the beads to relieve the pain. The products are also used for special needs children and adults to provide sensory stimulation, including children with autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also be used to redirect chewing on clothes or body parts.
Sensory stimulation is important for special needs children because they often have difficulty processing sensory information. They are too sensitive to some senses and not sensitive enough to others. Using teething jewelry can help a child to self-soothe when faced with over-stimulation or not enough stimulation.
The FDA warned teething necklaces, bracelets, or anklets pose a serious risk to children, including risk of strangulation, choking, and other injuries to the mouth, such as infection. If a piece of jewelry irritates or pierces the child’s gums it can cause serious infection.
Additionally, some amber teething necklaces contain succinic acid, which may be released into an infant’s blood stream in unknown quantities. Manufacturers of the products claim succinic acid offers an anti-inflammatory agent to relieve pain. However, the FDA has not evaluated the safety or effectiveness of the product.
The FDA has received a number of reports of death from choking and strangulation. Including the death of a 7-month old child who choked on the beads of a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision.
Similarly, an 18-month old was strangled to death by an amber teething necklace during nap time. Other children and infants have experienced serious injuries as well.
The agency has posted a website guiding parents on other ways to safely address teething pain and sensory stimulation needs.
The FDA recommends parents who use the necklaces for teething relief opt to use one of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended ways to treat teething pain. Those suggestions include rubbing inflamed gums with a clean finger or using a teething ring made of a firm rubber material.
Parents looking to offer sensory stimulation to special needs children should turn to other toys that don’t pose a threat to safety.